Before Sharks return, Patrick Marleau left lasting mark on Maple Leafs

Before Sharks return, Patrick Marleau left lasting mark on Maple Leafs

Patrick Marleau has played for two NHL teams.

He has left quite a mark on both of them.

Marleau instantly became the best story in the league so far this season when he scored two goals against the Blackhawks in his first game back with the Sharks last Friday. The franchise's all-time leader in games played and goals scored re-signed with San Jose after the Sharks incurred some injuries on their way to an 0-3 start.

Marleau clearly is happy to be back with the team he began his career with, and as if the two-goal performance wasn't an indication, the feeling is mutual. It was his first game since last April when Marleau was still with Toronto, and although he was only with the Maple Leafs for two seasons, he left a lasting impression on them.

"He means a lot to a lot of guys on this team and he’s a close friend of mine,” Toronto's Auston Matthews said of Marleau to SportsNet's Chris Johnston. “Just the way he is as a player and as a person, I think it’s just something that we can all kind of take bits and pieces of and apply it to ourselves. Not just on the ice, but off the ice as well. Just how he treats people and just the way he is and just his presence."

"He’s been in this league for [22 years] and every time someone walked in -- no matter if it was their first game or not -- he was always there to introduce himself and talk to them and try and help out if anything could be done,” Mitch Marner said of his former teammate. "His legacy here, I think, is just how respected he was around our room and around the league and just how much he meant to our team."

Upon his arrival in Toronto, Marleau took the younger Matthews and Marner under his wing. They became travel buddies, and the young phenoms even grew close with Marleau's family.

They were both pleased to hear that Marleau wound back up in San Jose.

"He deserved to play somewhere in this league," Marner commented.

"It was great to see that," Matthews said.

[RELATED: Agent reiterates Marleau only wanted to play for Sharks]

Marleau won't have to wait long to make a return to the arena he once called home, as the Sharks travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 25.

Of course, Marleau has another homecoming to get through first. That would be San Jose's game against Calgary on Sunday, Marleau's second first home game with the team that drafted him.

Patrick Marleau's agent says his client only wanted to play for Sharks

Patrick Marleau's agent says his client only wanted to play for Sharks

When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes in a salary dump this summer, the NHL veteran had one thing on his mind.

Marleau was singularly focused on reuniting with the Sharks, his agent Pat Brisson wrote to The Mercury News' Curtis Pashelka.

"Carolina had interest in Patrick for him to be part of the team this season, however Patrick wanted to be a Shark at all [costs]," Brisson e-mailed Pashelka on Friday. "He will retire as a Shark. At that point I started communicating with (Sharks general manager) Doug Wilson on a regular basis in order to try making it work."

Marleau signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Maple Leafs in 2017, and the longest tenured player in Sharks history suited up in a different uniform for the first time in two decades. Needing to re-sign a host of restricted free agents, including star winger Mitch Marner, the Leafs traded Marleau to the Hurricanes just before June's NHL draft. 

Although the 'Canes wanted to keep him, Marleau wanted to return to his first NHL home. That appeared unlikely when Wilson told The Athletic in September that the Sharks were focused on giving their young forwards opportunities to earn roster spots in training camp.

But the Sharks struggled out of the gate, starting 0-3-0 to begin the season while dealing with Evander Kane's suspension, some injuries and those young players adjusting to the NHL. San Jose wanted to bring in a veteran presence, and that opened the door for a reunion.

"The Sharks have made promises and commitments to their young players as part of their development," Brisson wrote in the e-mail. "If they were to look at bringing a veteran player obviously Patrick was going to be Doug's choice all along."

[RELATED: How Dell's win can help Sharks, fellow goalie Jones rebound]

Marleau officially signed with the Sharks on Wednesday, and he scored two goals in his first game back two days later. He kept skating on his own and with former teammates, but didn't participate in a training camp as a free agent. Marleau told reporters Saturday he experienced "a lot of ups and downs" when asked if he had a chance to sign with another team, but wouldn't elaborate. 

Now, Marleau is set to play his first home game for the Sharks in two-and-a-half years Sunday when San Jose hosts the Calgary Flames. Marleau is sure to receive a raucous ovation, further reminding him that this reunion was worth the wait. 

Sharks look to douse Flames early, avoid another early one-goal hole


Sharks look to douse Flames early, avoid another early one-goal hole

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks finally broke through Thursday night by taking their first lead in a game, on their way to their first win of the season, no less.

But five games into the 2019-20 season, San Jose's opponents still are getting on the scoreboard first and doing so very early in the first period.

With the Calgary Flames coming to SAP Center on Sunday night on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Sharks have a prime opportunity to buck that trend and strike first.

"That's the plan," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after practice Saturday. "Our fans are always ready to go, they always give us an opportunity to do that. But it's on us."

San Jose hasn't just allowed the first goal in every game. They've allowed the first goal less than 10 minutes into every first period so far this season, putting the Sharks on their heels before right from the get-go.

While loose defense and poor decision-making are mostly to blame for the early one-goal hole, DeBoer is encouraged by the strides the team made late in Thursday's win over the Blackhawks. With a couple of good practices under their belt heading into Sunday's contest, the Sharks should be able to continue building on that late-game performance in Chicago.

"I always worry about these games when you travel back at the end of a trip, that first game back when you arrive at 3 or 4 in the morning as we did," DeBoer said about returning from the roadie. "But we had a good skate today and we should be ready to go."

The Flames won't have the same luxury of getting solid practice time in. Calgary visits the South Bay at the end of a road trip and on the second game of a back-to-back, losing 6-2 to the Golden Knights in Las Vegas on Saturday night. 

Additionally, in all three of the Flames' losses through this early part of the season, their opponent has scored the first goal. If the Sharks want a chance at scoring first and putting another notch in the win column, this is the time. 

How does that strong start become a reality? The big key for the Sharks is going to be staying smart without compromising any of their grit -- something DeBoer referred to on Saturday as "aggressive patience."

"I know that sounds contradictory, but that's what we need," the coach said. "We're an aggressive team, our systems are aggressive. But the key is walking that line and knowing when to go and when you have to lay off and be patient and support each other. That always takes some work."

[RELATED: How Dell's win could boost fellow goalie Jones]

DeBoer knows it could take some time, but he believes his squad is worthy of getting it done.

"We're heading in the right direction," DeBoer said. "I like where we're going, but there's still a ways to go."